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ICYMI…WFLA Tampa: "Feds gave priority to HARC investigation due to vulnerable clients involved"


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For Immediate Release:
April 21, 2016 
Contact: Ashley Carr
(850) 413–2842
WFLA Tampa: "Feds gave priority to HARC investigation due to vulnerable clients involved"
“Feds gave priority to HARC investigation due to vulnerable clients involved”
WFLA Channel 8 – Tampa, FL
Story by Steve Andrews
April 20, 2016
Click HERE for full story and video
Federal and state investigators say they prioritized the case against former HARC CEO Richard Liliston because of the victims involved.
Liliston, the former head of the Hillsborough Assocation for Retarded Citizens (HARC),was convicted on of conspiring to defraud the Social Security Administration in a scheme to divert $683,599 from his disabled clients.
Evidence culled from tens of thousands of emails, a decade of banking transactions, rooms full of records, led to the verdict on Wednesday.
Multiple agencies such as Florida’s Department of Financial Services (D.F.S.) Office of Fiscal Integrity and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General joined the investigation.
In 2014 Mary Hull, a financial investigator with the DFS analyzed a decade of banking transactions from 135 client accounts—the agency’s commitment to the case never wavered.
“It was the vulnerable group we were dealing with. These people couldn’t handle their money and H.A.R.C. representatives were in charge of taking care of them,” explained Investigator Hull.
Hull says H.A.R.C. siphoned off benefits from the accounts of 65 clients including Melinda Hirsch.
Her findings show Mr. Liliston and former CFO Frank Pannullo schemed to open funnel money from clients’ personal checking accounts into a HARC client account.
According to the Social Security Administration, clients benefits should be spent on the clients and the administration requires you to file a report explaining how the money was spent.  Lilliston and his staff ignored this rule and submitted hundreds of false reports to the SSA.
His clients’ social security benefits paid for unauthorized salary increases, outrageous car allowances and even a cell phone for Lilliston’s wife.
The trial lasted a week and a half and the jury deliberated for two hours before reaching a guilty verdict on Wednesday.
“The level of deceit displayed in this scheme is a glaring example of the fraud, waste and abuse that our Department, alongside local, state and federal partners, works to eradicate,” said Florida C-F-O Jeff Atwater. “To steal taxpayer dollars by defrauding the developmentally-disabled community is an unfathomable crime, and I applaud the collaborative efforts of those who worked tirelessly to make sure the culprits in this case were held accountable for their actions.”
Mr. Lilliston faces a maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 fine.
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